10 January 2017 Penning
By Mrs. Ann Arndt
Our son, Michael, was eight years old and in third grade. He was invited to a birthday party at Show Biz Pizza in Shawnee. The birthday boy, “Shawn,” was also in third grade and had invited all 12 boys in his class to his party. Mr. Arndt, Eric, and I escorted our son into the restaurant to the party. They had reserved a long table, enough places for 12 boys and one chaperone, complete with fancy plates, balloons, party favors, etc. We were a few minutes early, the first ones there, with the exception of the birthday boy and his mother. We waited and waited for someone else, the 11 other boys to arrive. The excitement of the birthday boy and his mother diminished as the time went by, and no one else was showing up. Finally realizing that no one else was coming, the down-hearted mother asked if Mr. Arndt, Eric, and I would stay so at least there would be a few people to help celebrate “Shawn’s” birthday. We were as festive as we could be, but there was a giant cloud hanging over us all as we realized “Shawn” was not liked well enough by any of his other classmates to even show up for his party.
Popularity is a puzzle to me. How is it some kids are naturally “popular,” while others struggle to have friends? Does it have anything to do with good looks? If so, who determines what “good looking” is and what it is not? Does it have to do with intelligence? If so, why does popularity sometimes begin as early as kindergarten? Does it have to do with athletic ability? How is it fair when it is God who gives athletic ability in varying degrees to His created children? Maybe it’s mostly personality. That doesn’t seem fair, either, since personality is often a product of our experiences and how others have treated us. Why does popularity begin so young? Why do some children get all the breaks? Why are some children so pleasant to be around and others have a chip on their shoulder? Why are some children ignored or picked on? How do children learn to pick on other children? Where do children learn to feel superior to others? WHY do some children feel superior to others?
In our imperfect society, children sometimes experience these things. It is here where church, school, and home work together to raise caring, supportive children. Sometimes we must help our children see beyond actions to understand the reasons behind actions.
I often think of this situation, and wonder how “Shawn” turned out. I pray he made friends. I also wonder how the other 11 boys turned out, the ones whose parents allowed them to determine “Shawn” wasn’t worthy of their presence at his birthday party. I’m sure there were legitimate reasons for some of the absences, but what of the others? There were missed opportunities here for parents to teach compassion and care for others.
One of the many things I really appreciate about our smaller, Lutheran schools, is that daily I observe parents interacting with children who are not their own. I see compassion and caring. It takes a village to raise a child. MLA is kind of like a village where we can all love and appreciate children even if they are not our own! Thank you, parents, for noticing and caring about ALL the children of the MLA “village!”